On the morning of April 9, 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee arose early and dressed in his best uniform, including sword and sash, with the expectation that he would become Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's prisoner by day's end.

At dawn, Lee ordered an attack on the Union cavalry. The Confederates broke the Union line, but as they reached the crest of a ridge near the Peers House they saw two corps of Union infantry and withdrew with the Union in pursuit. After being advised that it was over for his troops, who had been fought to a 'frazzle,' Lee knew there was nothing left to do.

appomattox court house peers house

The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia fired its last shot on the morning of April 9, 1865 in front of the ca. 1855 Peers House in Appomattox Court House. A scenic footpath winds through the historic village to the major points of interest and battle actions.

Robert E. Lee arrived at Wilmer McLean's house - the nicest house in Appomattox Court House - at 1:00 pm and waited in the front parlor for Grant who arrived in a flannel shirt and muddy uniform with his entourage around 1:30. The two reminisced about their experiences in the Mexican-American War and then Grant presented the surrender terms: The Confederates were to stack their arms, receive paroles and return home. Grant then ordered rations for Lee's starving army. As word of the surrender spread and Union artillery began firing victory salutes, Grant silenced them saying, "The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again."

appomattox court house mclean house fence ranger

It is said that the Civil War began and ended at Wilmer McLean's house as the first shots were fired near his home in Manassas, and by coincidence the last shots were fired and the surrender occurred at his second home in Appomattox Court House.

In the following weeks, all of the remaining Confederate armies surrendered one-by-one under the same terms as those at Appomattox.

Visiting the Appomattox Court House Battlefield

Your best bet to tour the Battle of Appomattox Court House is to begin at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park visitor center located in the court house building. The center has a film, exhibits, park maps and brochures as well as tours and talks led by National Park Service Rangers. Appomattox Court House Village is a restored and reconstructed village of approximately 30 buildings that appear much as they did in the 19th century. The buildings include the McLean House surrender site, which was reconstructed on its original foundation, the Court House which is now the visitor center, the Tavern Kitchen which is now the bookstore, Clover Hill Tavern where parole documents were printed, and the Peers House where the final shots were fired. The park tour is an easy, scenic walk on a level dirt and gravel track. In addition, the National Park Service publishes an 8-stop driving tour with foot trails to other points of interest such as the Confederate Cemetery, the North Carolina Monument, the site of Lee's headquarters, and the Flag of Truce site.

appomattox court house lee grant meeting

A second meeting was held between Grant and Lee on April 10, 1865, at this location near the Peers House. During the meeting Lee requested printed paroles for the surrendered Confederate soldiers to insure their safe return home.

appomattox court house clover hill tavern tree

Grant honored Lee's request for proof of parole for the surrendered Confederate soldiers and set up printing presses in Clover Hill Tavern to print the documents.

An app is also available from Civil War Trust that features a 15-stop driving and walking tour of Appomattox Court House. This excellent resource contains directions to all stops as well as readings, photographs and interactive media describing the battle actions and other items of historical interest.

Downtown Appomattox, the site of the battle of Appomattox Station, is located a few miles away. Downtown Appomattox is a well-preserved historic village with shopping, dining and bed and breakfast accommodations.

You will definitely want to stop by the new Museum of the Confederacy Appomattox located a few miles west of Appomattox Court House. The Museum contains a wealth of significant Civil War artifacts, uniforms and weapons - including the coat, gauntlets and sword worn by Robert E. Lee on the day of surrender.

appomattox court house clover hill tavern printing press

Nearly 30,000 Confederate paroles were printed at Clover Hill Tavern in keeping with President Abraham Lincoln's expressed desire in his second inaugural address: 'With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.'

Pictured at the very top: The reconstructed courthouse is now the visitor center and headquarters for Appomattox Court House National Historical Park.

Visit National Park Service and Civil War Trust and for battle details and information about the preservation of this battlefield.